SOFIA

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

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What is SOFIA?

  • Located in Christchurch, New Zealand, SOFIA, the flying telescope, studies the center of our Milky Way galaxy and it's dwarf galaxies.
  • The program is headed by NASA and the German Aerospace Center.
  • SOFIA is a mobile observatory, housing nine telescopes.
  • Holds a 2.5 meter reflector telescope with an oversize 2.7 meter diameter primary mirror.


Infrared wavelengths cannot be seen by the human eye. By using an Infrared telescope, we can see space more in depth.

  • SOFIA's mobility can keep her in the air, above water vapor, so that the infrared wavelengths are not disturbed by the moisture.
  • By using this system, NASA discovered a cluster of newborn stars in a giant cloud of gas 6,400 light years from Earth.


Tech Specs


  • SOFIA is based on a Boeing 747SP aircraft.
  • It is modified to include a large door in the aft fuselage that can be opened in flight for the telescope.
  • The telescope is designed to make observations at altitudes of about 41,000 feet.
  • At the aircraft's cruising altitude, 85% of the full infrared range will be available.
  • Being on an aircraft gives SOFIA the ability to observe constellations in the Northern and Southern hemisphere.



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JULY 18, 2013

SOFIA was based in New Zealand for two weeks, taking advantage of the Southern Hemisphere's orientation to study galaxies that are difficult/impossible to see in the Northern Hemisphere. They are scheduled to execute as many as nine research flights through August 1.
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